The digital era offers us more of everything. With just a few clicks, internet users have access to more learning opportunities, large resource pools, expanded personal and professional networks, and so much more. But today’s vast digital landscape also poses a new kind of threat: cybercrime.
Cybercrime is one of the biggest threats to businesses across the globe. In 2021, well over half (61% to be exact) of small to medium sized businesses (SMBs) reported at least one cyberattack. This means that every company should adopt a “when,” not “if,” mentality when it comes to targeted cybercrime, and the perfect way to get started on protecting your organization is by creating a cybersecurity checklist.
What is a Cybersecurity Checklist, and Why is it Important?
A cybersecurity checklist is a list of standards, processes, and procedures that can help ensure the security of a computer or network. It’s important to have a cybersecurity checklist because it provides a way to systematically assess the security of a system and identify any vulnerabilities that may need to be addressed. By following a checklist, you can help protect your system from being hacked, infected with malware, or otherwise compromised by malicious actors.
Failure to regularly audit your security effectiveness with a comprehensive checklist can lead to some pretty devastating consequences, including lawsuits, integrity loss, and even business closure. This is especially true for smaller businesses, since they tend to be less protected than large corporations. In fact, recent data suggests that a significant portion of cyberattacks are directed at SMBs, and their likelihood of becoming a target is only continuing to grow.
What to Include in Your Cybersecurity Checklist
By following a cybersecurity checklist, you can take steps to prevent the above threats and protect your organization from harm. Let’s review a few essential items to include in your checklist:
Hire the Right Personnel
This is an important item to add to your cybersecurity checklist. Establishing and maintaining a secure IT infrastructure requires a lot of manpower and expertise. If your organization is seeing gaps in this area, it might be time to hire more cybersecurity professionals. There’s a reason it’s one of the most in-demand tech jobs for 2023, after all.
Implement Defense in Depth
Defense in Depth is a security strategy that involves implementing multiple layers of defense at various points throughout a system to protect against a wide range of potential threats. The idea is that if one layer of defense is breached, additional layers will still be in place to protect the system.
Conduct Regular Employee Awareness Training
Providing regular cybersecurity awareness training to all your employees can help reduce the risk of human error. Workers may not be aware of the consequences of their actions when it comes to security. They may accidentally expose their organization to risk by falling for phishing attacks, using weak passwords, or clicking on malicious links, for example. 82% of breaches that occurred in 2022 involved the human element according to Verizon, so you’ll want to make sure you add employee training to your cybersecurity checklist.
Establish a Password Policy
Believe it or not, many people are still using infamously weak passwords. “123456,” “guest,” even “password” were among the most commonly used passwords for 2022, and cybercriminals are aware of their popularity. Requiring strong, unique passwords to access your organization’s IT systems is a great way to deter hackers and prevent successful brute force attacks. Make sure your employees know that strong passwords generally:
- Include 10 or more characters
- Have a combination of upper and lowercase letters
- Use numbers and/or special characters (like !, #, or $)
- Contain zero references to personal information (such as names of pets, addresses, or phone numbers)
Enable Two-factor Authentication
Two-factor authentication (2FA) is a great item to include in your cybersecurity checklist because it adds an extra layer of security by requiring employers to provide a second form of authentication, such as a code sent to their mobile device. While it’s simple to enable and easy to use, 2FA is incredibly effective at preventing unauthorized access to your systems and protecting your organization against phishing attacks.
Restrict Administrative Access
It’s usually a good idea to limit the amount of administrative power your workers have access to on any company-issued devices. You don’t want your employees accidentally installing malware or removing necessary security measures.
Ensure All Devices Are Set for Automatic Updates
Software and operating system (OS) updates do more than add new features to your device and improve its overall stability. They often include security fixes for recently discovered vulnerabilities. According to a 2019 Ponemon Institute survey, unpatched vulnerabilities were involved in 60% of data breaches, so it’s imperative that your employees keep their devices up to date with the latest security patches.
Protect Against Malware
Installing sophisticated antivirus software across all devices is an excellent way to protect your organization against malware attacks. This should be one of the first items on your cybersecurity checklist. Still, it’s important to note that simply installing antivirus software is not enough to keep your devices safe from infection. You must also ensure your antivirus software updates regularly to scan for new viruses and other malware.
Ensure Secure Connection
More and more people are working from remote locations these days (coffee shops, airports, libraries, etc.), but public Wi-Fi networks are usually unencrypted. This means that the data transmitted over the network is not protected, making it easier for hackers to steal sensitive information. This includes login credentials, financial data, and more.
Making sure your employees have access to a virtual private network (VPN) is a great way to combat the dangers of public networks.
Additional Items to Include in Your Cybersecurity Checklist
While the above list covers some of the basic items in a cybersecurity checklist, there are other steps your organization can take to shield itself against cyber threats. Additional measures include:
- Backing up all data on a regular basis to prevent permanent data loss in the event of an attack
- Implementing physical security measures (i.e., controlled access, security guards, ID badges, etc.) to reduce the risk of unauthorized access to company property where sensitive information is held
- Providing firewall protection to monitor and control all incoming and outgoing traffic to your network
- Implementing remote-wipe capabilities on all devices to render them useless in the event of theft
- Discarding equipment and data in a secure manner
- Creating a disaster recovery/response plan that outlines the steps your company should take to respond to and minimize loss in the event of a successful cyberattack
Work With a Cybersecurity Staffing Agency
This article provides you with the basics of cybersecurity, but it’s important to note that this is not a comprehensive list, especially if you’re just getting started with cybersecurity. There are dozens of measures you can add to your cybersecurity checklist, but you can’t do it alone. You need to hire talented experts to help you defend your organization against cybercrime year-round.
When you’re ready to get started on building a more secure IT infrastructure, head over to our cybersecurity page. We can match you with the most qualified, skilled, and pre-vetted cybersecurity professionals within two weeks!